The First Time I Realized I Needed My Name Back
I think about words a lot. Probably more than most people. And when I do, I think about their meaning. How they got their meaning, how we then assign them additional meaning, and the fact that words are really just a collection of letters.
Lately I’ve been thinking about one word in particular. It’s one I’ve known for almost 40 years. It’s been attached to me since my beginning, before I even knew what a word was.
And, a few days ago, I uttered a few words when the sweet lady behind the plastic partition told me I’d have to pay $322 to be reunited with that word.
“Are you serious?”
That’s what I said, as I was forced to quickly consider how much that word meant to me. And moreover, the price I would be willing to pay to be disconnected from the word I’ve been attached to for most of my adult life.
The word I use to identify myself. The one I sign to stories when I write. The one that’s on my license, and email and mortgage. The one I share with my three kids. The one that is almost always mispronounced.
The one that is now soiled. In my mind, empty. Almost poisonous, for me. It’s hollow. It represents a past that is littered with heartbreak and deceit and manipulation and confusion. And the ongoing present association to it isn’t much better.
To me, it doesn’t represent anything that is true or authentic, with the exception of my three kids.
And, it’s just not me. I’m not that name. It doesn’t define me.
I’m more than that name.
My name, the one I was given, is hearty. And strong. And German, so it has two words. As a kid, I wasn’t real fond of it. People who didn’t know me thought I might be Asian, which is fine, just wrong. I was always at the end of the line, because everything went in alphabetical order. I’m horrible at cursive Ls, and that name, plus my first name, had me do them twice. And I just don’t like vans. In a name, or otherwise. They’re just not my thing.
But that name is me. It’s been with me for longer than the other name, the one I only legally adopted for about 15 years.
But when that apologetic court clerk asked if I knew about the astronomical filing fee she’d have to charge me, it was the first time I realized I that needed that name back. There wasn’t a question in my mind about whether that fee would slow me down or sidetrack me. I bought my name back, which sounds weird, but business is business, right? And I probably would have paid more for it, too.
It’s an old name for a new start with a fresh perspective and a deep appreciation for what life does, every day, to shape my outlook. I’m so thirsty to move forward with my name, the one I was given, so I can own every experience for myself.
Besides, my days of alphabetical lines and cursive Ls are long gone. And at home I only go by one name, anyway. So, adios old name.